Fit Summer: ‘Comfort eating, night-time binges and pandemic pounds – why I will be following the four-week plan’

By | May 31, 2021

Welcome to your Fit Summer plan. With our team of coaches, over the next four Mondays, in Health&Living and on independent.ie, we will bring you on a journey that will enable you to make deep and lasting changes so that you can live the fit, healthy, long life you deserve. It is a plan to motivate you, to nourish you and to show you the joy of moving your body.

nna Geary defines fitness as “a state of mind, an aura, it is how you feel about yourself”. I used to be fit. I lost a lot of weight in my early 30s and in the process developed a love for strength training and lifting weights. I would exercise four or five times a week. I prepped all my food in advance and ate loads of lean meat and fresh vegetables.

I had a strong body. And I felt great. Being strong and fit gave me such a feeling of confidence and power. And I miss that feeling so much. I miss the energy and the lack of aches and pains and I miss the freedom of living in a fit body. Of being able to get up in the morning and put on clothes and not worry about how I looked. So what happened?

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Personal trainer Siobhan Byrne

Personal trainer Siobhan Byrne

Personal trainer Siobhan Byrne

Well, firstly, I started my family. After my first daughter, I struggled to find the time to exercise and eat as I had done before. The process that had got me into peak condition was time-consuming and it required me to put myself first in a way that I now found almost impossible.

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After a couple of years, I got ‘back on track’ thanks to 100 FIT days — another fitness plan that ran on these pages, and everything was going swimmingly until we decided that it was time to have baby number two. But it wasn’t an easy road and that pregnancy took a long time to happen. At times I got so sad and so disappointed that I was almost defiant in my lack of looking after myself. And I took comfort in food.

By the time my younger daughter was conceived, I was a bona fide night-time binge eater. As soon as my eldest was in bed, I would sit in front of the TV and eat junk food with the same resignation and intention with which an alcoholic drinks alcohol.

Fast, desperate and mindlessly. Searching for oblivion. I could easily demolish a whole tube of Pringles in one sitting. It started with just the weekends, but soon it was seven nights a week. But it was OK because I told myself I would fix it ‘after the baby’. This was a temporary state — an extended cheat day. Then I would get ‘back on the wagon’. But I didn’t stop when my second daughter arrived over three years ago. And even though I went back to exercising a little, I never really managed to cut out the night-time eating.

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Dietitian Orla Walsh

Dietitian Orla Walsh

Dietitian Orla Walsh

When the gyms closed in the pandemic, I gave up altogether. I told myself that I needed the gym to stay on track. That eating well and exercising were two sides of the same coin. One could not exist without the other. It was all or nothing. I couldn’t implement the strict regime that had worked for me before, and I was a failure. So I might as well give up, sit on the couch and eat.

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And this is the toxic diet culture mentality that Orla Walsh and Anna Geary talk about in this series — being ‘good’ during the day and ‘bad’ at night. Or being ‘good’ during the week and ‘bad’ at the weekends. I was waiting to get ‘back on the wagon’, get ‘back on track’. I was always ‘starting on Monday’. And if it was just about coming to terms with a bigger body than I would like, that might be OK. But at a pre-pandemic health check, I was strongly advised to lose weight as I was touching on the obese category.

This puts me in a higher risk category for lots of cancers, it potentially reduces the efficacy of the Covid vaccine, it raises my risk of diabetes and many other chronic conditions. This matters more than how I might feel in a dress. I would like to see my children into their 30s, and be hale and hearty for them. This means I have to be fit and healthy into my 70s.

So I will be following the Fit Summer plan to the letter and reporting on my progress. I hope you will join me.

Fit Summer, your four week programme for mind and body runs every Monday in Health&Living and independent.ie until June 21

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